On this Veterans Day, as it is celebrated in the United States, I am reminded of an item that rests in my safe.
A small record, a recording, that is some 60-plus years old. It was recorded by my father in Hawaii, just before he shipped out to the Pacific Theater of operations during World War 2. In a faded cardboard sleeve adorned with a "Pepsi-Cola" advertisement, it was addressed to his folks -- my grandparents -- at the family farm in Southeast Ohio.
The record was a message of a minute or so from my dad to his parents. His voice preserved forever with some thoughts and a farewell to mom and dad just before he headed off to war.
In his later years, like so many others, he never talked about the war. Getting information out of him about his experiences was like trying to get blood out of a turnip. It just wasn't going to happen.
Dad was a medic. Like the other young men who carried a medical kit instead of a rifle, he did his best to patch together the wounded and the dying during two horrendous island battles -- Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. Becuase of his hours of service under direct fire he earned his combat medical badge. Even more, he earned a Bronze Star. He sacrificed his youth, like so many other millions of that greatest generation.
No one (alive) knows what is on the recording. Pieces of it are missing. The wax, or plastic, or vinyl (whatever it is) record is backed with paper. With age, this record, about the size of a 45 RPM disk, has a couple of small bits missing. Every few years I hope that recording technology has come far enough along to find a way to fill in the gaps (even if they are blank) in a manner that allows the majority of the recording to be played. I talk to people in the recording industry, but none so far has a solution for that one key problem -- literally filling small holes in a way that a needle will still playback what is recorded..
I wonder what his voice sounded like when he was in his early 20s. . . I wonder what he told my Grandma and Grandpa Greer, who were busy while the world was at war doing their best to eke out a living from the land in southeast Ohio . . .
Did he tell them not to worry? Did he ask them to look after something for him?
Dad, wherever you are, thanks once more for your service. We lost you 15 years ago Sunday. Nevertheless, thanks for being the best dad in the whole world. Happy Veterans Day.
And someday I WILL hear those words you recorded, not knowing whether you were coming back. I'm glad you did. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here.